Chorfest committee members Brenda Dewonck

Chorfest committee members Brenda Dewonck

Hundreds of voices to rise in Vernon for annual Chorfest

Chorfest is the annual choral weekend sponsored by the B.C. Choral Federation, and this year it is Vernon’s turn once again to play host.

Chorfest is the annual choral weekend sponsored by the B.C. Choral Federation, and this year it is Vernon’s turn once again to play host.

This is the third time that Vernon has hosted Chorfest, which this year takes place May 15 to 17 at the Vernon Recreation Complex and the Performing Arts Centre.

In 1979, Vernon’s acting mayor at the time, Sigrid Ann Thors, was called upon to arrange for Chorfest to be held in Vernon, said local Chorfest committee chair Elizabeth Scott.

“Jocelyn Pritchard, then living in Vancouver, thought of Vernon when Victoria had last minute booking issues for the second annual Chorfest. Sigrid Ann, with the able assistance of Patrick Musette (now a restaurant owner in Montreal), found food and lodging for the participants, arranged rehearsal space in the old Fulton School, and concert space in Trinity United Church, which was then located on 27th Avenue, across from the Court House,” said Scott. “Dr. Elmer Iseler, the clinician, conducted the concert to the accompaniment of the sound of logging trucks rumbling past.”

The second time Vernon played host was in 1983 when the Okanagan Symphony Chorus was host choir. Robin Suddaby headed up the committee composed of Vernon singers, and the clinician that year was Wayne Riddell from Toronto. Members of the Okanagan Symphony Sinfonia were hired to accompany the choir.

“A highlight of the concert was definitely the massed choir performance of Magnificat by Imant Raminsh,” said Scott.

With this year’s title of Chorfestivity, planning for the festival has been underway for the past two years.

This is the first time the festival is being hosted by three different choirs, the AURA Chamber Choir, Counterpoint Choir and the Vernon Community Singers (also taking part as a core choir will be members of the Shuswap Men’s Chorus).

“The Chorfest committee, composed of 20 volunteers representing the three host choirs, has done a remarkable job of planning for the festival,” said Scott, adding 52 other volunteers will be working over the weekend, showing that yet again, Vernon has outdone itself in volunteer time.

“The major coup is that this is the first Chorfest to declare registrations closed before the event. Registrations were overbooked by the early-bird deadline, a situation which has caught many would-be participants by surprise.”

Not only will there be more than 230 adults in the Chorfest Choir, but the Children’s Chorfest, which is run concurrently, has a registration of 120.

“Both numbers are surprisingly high, and has given the organizers both joy and consternation,” said Scott, adding that local carpenters are busy planning the huge set of risers that will accommodate not only the children and the adults, but also the members of the B.C. Youth Choir.

“These groups will be on stage for the massed numbers ending the concert, and the stage will be filled with about 375 singers.”

The beautiful lakes for which Vernon and district are so famous are the source of inspiration for the theme of this year’s event.

“Most of the music being sung has water as its subject, beginning with Before there was Light from Alleluia for the Waters by Daniel Pinkham, to the wonderful arrangement by Vernon’s own Imant Raminsh of the Latvian folk song Put Vejini (Blow Winds),” said Scott.

Music director of the Okanagan Symphony Rosemary Thomson is this year’s clinician.

“The program chosen by Rosemary Thomson is designed to appeal to many tastes, and runs the full range from an opera chorus by Mozart to Bruce Cockburn’s All the Diamonds,” said Scott, adding the choir will be accompanied by Carol Colpitts at the piano, with assistance from Glen Goerzen on guitar.

Leading the children will be Sarona Mynhardt of the White Rock Children’s Choir, while the B.C. Youth Choir will be working with Jon Washburn and members of his professional choir, the Vancouver Chamber Choir.

The concert will open with the Children’s Chorfest choir, composed of children from 10 Vernon elementary school choirs, plus singers from Salmon Arm and Kelowna.

Mynhardt has chosen Klee Wyck by Brian Tate, Solidaridad by David Brunner, When I Close my Eyes by Jim Papoulis and Francisco Nunez and Rejoice and Sing by Rollo Dilworth.

Holly McCallum of Armstrong will appear as the cello soloist.

The closing concert number will be the energetic African street song, Amavolovolo, in which the entire group of Chorfest singers will be joined by the Vernon drum group Jabulani.

The second set in the program will be the performance by the B.C. Youth Choir, directed by Washburn.

“The BCYC is composed of auditioned singers aged 17 to 25 who meet mainly once a year on the Chorfest weekend. They will be mentored during the weekend by members of the Vancouver Chamber Choir as part of its youth outreach program,” said Scott.

The public concert takes place Sunday, May 17 at 2 p.m. at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.  Admission is by donation (suggested $10) and doors open at 1 p.m. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early to get a good seat.

More information on Chorfestivity is available at